Hungarian-American physicist Eugene Paul Wigner is born

Hungarian physicist and mathematician Eugene Paul Wigner, was born on November 17, 1902

November 17, 2021

Hungarian-American physicist Eugene Paul Wigner is born in Budapest, Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963

The Hungarian physicist and mathematician Eugene Paul Wigner, was born in Budapest, Hungary; November 17, 1902

Havana Cuba. – Hungarian physicist and mathematician Eugene Paul Wigner, was born in Budapest, Hungary; the November 17, 1902. He studied at Princeton University and acquired American citizenship in 1937. He was one of five scientists who briefed President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 on the possible military use of atomic energy, and during World War II he contributed to the design of plutonium reactors as part of the Manhattan project. His main contribution was to apply group theory to quantum mechanics. In 1927, Wigner concluded that parity is preserved in a nuclear reaction. This remained a basic postulate of physics until 1958, when Yang and Lee showed that certain types of reactions related to the weak force, such as beta decay, do not preserve parity. Wigner also conducted research on the strong interactions that bind neutrons and protons in the nucleus of atoms, and showed that this force has a very short radius of action.

It was obvious to him and von Neumann that as a result of the Munich peace pact in the fall of 1938, the start of World War II was imminent and that England, France, and the United States were ill-prepared to deal with it. To protect his parents from Hitler’s rising power, Wigner convinced them to move to the United States. A few months later came the announcement of the discovery of nuclear fission by Hahn and Strassmann in Berlin, along with evidence of the large amount of energy released in the process. Meanwhile, Enrico Fermi, who had carried out much of the pioneering work on neutron-induced reactions, had left Italy and accepted an appointment at Columbia University in New York. On the other hand, Leo Szilard, who had moved from Berlin to England when Hitler took power, decided to join Fermi in New York, as he too feared that war was imminent.

Leo Szilard, from the 1920s was convinced that it would not be long before the technology was developed to extract an enormous amount of energy from the atomic nucleus. He soon began working with Fermi and Wigner to determine whether an induced fission chain reaction was possible. At the end of the winter of 1938-1939, they concluded that the probability of success was high, as long as they could count on the necessary financial resources. Einstein, Szilard, and Wigner sent a letter to President Roosevelt in July 1939 describing the potentialities of a nuclear bomb and warning that since the Germans discovered fission, the Germans were most likely the first to develop. It took two and a half years, the start of World War II, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, for the United States government to finally decide to launch a comprehensive program to investigate fission and its military applications.

Wigner laid the foundations for the application of the principles of symmetry to quantum mechanics, an achievement that earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 (together with J. Hans D. Jensen and Maria Goeppert-Mayer) “for their contribution to the theory of the atomic nucleus and elementary particles, especially for the discovery and application of the important principles of symmetry ”. On the basis of these foundations, symmetry came to play a central role in the development of physics during the second half of the 20th century, far beyond the work of Wigner himself. He liked symmetries, such as rotations in which the observations do not change when the symmetry transformation is applied uniformly to everything. We generally work with quantum mechanical systems that have a finite number of degrees of freedom. Theories involving spontaneously broken symmetries are today the basis for the description of magnetism, superconductivity, the unified electroweak interaction, and many of the concepts employed in the attempt to develop theories that provide a greater unified understanding of the forces between fundamental particles. Posterity will long remember Wigner for providing powerful new tools for the theoretical physicist, as well as for his comparatively basic work in the development of nuclear reactors.

Eugene Paul Wigner, dies in Princeton, United States; on January 1, 1995.

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Hungarian-American physicist Eugene Paul Wigner is born